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      NY Gov. Vetoes Education Bill Benefiting Religious Students

      NY Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for religious students with special needs to receive tuition reimbursements.
      By Rachel Hirshfeld
      First Publish: 8/1/2012, 7:47 PM

      Schoolgirls (file)
      Schoolgirls (file)
      Israel news photo: Flash 90

      New York Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for religious students with special needs to receive tuition reimbursements for attending private schools.

      While students with special needs may currently receive a tuition reimbursement if their local public schools are unable to provide them with the necessary services, parents must apply for the reimbursement annually and explain their rationale as to why the public school is incapable of meeting the student’s needs.

      The bill, which was vetoed on Tuesday, would have only required reapplication for the reimbursement when students’ needs change, not annually. 

      In addition, the bill, which received support from Orthodox Jews and Catholics, would have required schools to consider “the school environment” versus the student’s “home environment and family background” when considering whether to reimburese the student for private school fees.

      “This administration … is committed to providing the best education and assistance to every child in New York, including children with disabilities,” Cuomo wrote in his veto message. “However, this bill unfairly places the burden on taxpayers to support the provision of private education.”

      The bill passed with bipartisan support in June, and its biggest backers were religious organizations such as Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish advocacy group. Leah Steinberg, the group’s director of special education affairs, said the bill wasn’t about religion but rather about providing appropriate special-education services for all children, The Wall Street Journal reported.

      “Although we respect the personal choices that parents make to raise their children in accordance with their faith and culture, it would have been wrong to obligate taxpayers to pay for these private choices,” New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Timothy Kremer said in a news release after the veto was delivered.